Religious clashes in Myanmar, a Buddhist-majority country, have driven more than 400,000 Rohingya Muslims out of the country, provoking the United Nations’ top human rights official to call the campaign against them “ethnic cleansing.” It’s tarnished the reputation of the country’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi: Her long silence on the violence has had some critics petitioning to rescind her 1991 Nobel Peace Prize. It has raised doubts about whether Myanmar can keep attracting the levels of foreign investment the Southeast Asian nation has counted on to modernize the economy since it opened up to the outside world six years ago.
The latest tensions were sparked on Aug. 25 when militants from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army attacked 25 police and army posts, killing a dozen security officials in the eastern state of Rakhine. The military responded with what it calls “clearance operations.” There have been reports of security forces and Buddhist vigilantes indiscriminately attacking Muslims in the state and burning their villages. The army said more than 400 people have died, most of them militants, while human-rights groups say hundreds of villagers have been killed. The military’s response has been similar to its reaction after an ARSA operation in October 2016: UN investigators concluded soldiers “very likely” committed crimes against humanity. An estimated 87,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar then.